Lauren Cho's Remains Identified: Missing Woman Found in 'Rugged Terrain of the Open Desert'

Remains found earlier this month in California’s Yucca Valley have been identified as those of missing person Lauren Cho, a 30-year-old resident of New Jersey who had traveled across the country to start a new life. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department announced Thursday that their coroner’s division had positively identified the human remains to be Cho. The cause and manner of death is pending toxicology results. 

Authorities discovered the remains on Oct. 9 during the search for Cho “in the rugged terrain of the open desert of Yucca Valley,” according to the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. A representative for the department said at the time the “scientific process” of identifying the remains could take days or weeks. 

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Cho, a chef, singer, and artist, had been missing since June 28 when friends told police she became upset and walked away from a rental property in the desert between San Bernardino and Joshua Tree National Park. Cho’s ex-boyfriend reported her missing around three hours after she disappeared and according to authorities he “indicated she was suffering from mental distress,” and that she left without food, water, or her phone. In the days and weeks after the disappearance, Cho’s friends and authorities searched the surrounding desert. At the end of July, the sheriff’s department executed a search warrant at the property where Cho was last seen. 

Cho’s case garnered increased attention after the media fervor over the disappearance and search for Gabby Petito prompted a discussion of “missing white woman syndrome” and the lack of similar public support and urgency in cases of missing black and indigenous people and other people of color. Petito was found strangled to death in September near a Wyoming campground after disappearing during a cross-country roadtrip with her fiancé Brian Laundrie. Laundrie was later found dead in a nature preserve near his parents’ Florida home earlier this month. His cause and manner of death remains unknown.

A Facebook account purportedly maintained by Cho’s family posted the press release from the sheriff’s department announcing the positive identification of Cho’s remains on Thursday without further context. The account manager did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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